Along the South Llano River


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Fishing along the river was something Chris was itching to do during our stay at South Llano River State Park. He’d fished there the last time we were here but since then there had been a massive flood back in October. Up and down the Llano River and some other adjacent riverine systems, flooding impacted the Hill Country. You can see some of the evidence in the last photo and I’ll share other photos I took from further away from the river where smaller creeks within the start park uprooted cacti and other vegetation as it flowed through the area.

While Chris fished for Guadalupe bass, Forest threw rocks into the river and I took photos of him throwing rocks! Hanging around while Chris fishes is not my favorite thing in the world and in pre-kid days, when I didn’t need to be watching to make sure a certain 4 year old didn’t fall in the water, I would read a book. Until he gets to the point where he can play without possibly getting in the water, no book reading for me!

Some day I’d like to come back during the summer and tube the river. It’s been many moons since I’ve gone tubing on a river in Texas, I think the last time was college on the Guadalupe River. When Forest can swim better, it would be a fun trip!

Bat House Update!


I did a search for posts here but I couldn’t come up with anything that talked about the big bat house Chris built about 3.5 years ago. Chris had installed some smaller bat boxes to our pine trees when we moved in and one or two sometimes later—and we have bats in most of those as well—but the big bat house was meant to house lots of bats. Anyway, I realized I had never posted any videos here of the bats leaving (or coming back) and it is really pretty cool! We *have* reached the point where you can smell them in the heat of the summer when the wind wafts our direction, though.

The first video is one I took earlier this week and then I went through Chris’ YouTube and pulled a few of his videos.

Enjoy!


Around 4 minutes in you can hear whistling ducks—and around 4:42 they come flying through the sky. Lots of frogs to hear, too! The high pitched squeaking is the bats.


This is a good one from early February showing how they pour out of the house.

Winter Ramble at Tandy Hills Natural Area


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Our trip to DFW after Christmas was chilly as per usual, though certainly no tenuous drive across Tarrant county as roads were icing like last year! We had one day where Chris and I were itching to get a hike in, to feel some movement, and so we went over to Tandy Hills for a short jaunt through the park. Zoe was game to go with us so we left Forest with Grayson under the eye of my Mom so they could play together for a bit.

Being as it was winter, not a lot was going on. There have been several fires there recently, not for a controlled burn, and we could see the burned areas quite easily. Despite being set outside of a controlled burn setting, the area probably needed to be burned a bit. It’s kind of hard to do this sort of thing with a major interstate down slope of the park and houses surrounding the rest of the natural area. It will be interesting to see what wildflowers come back in those areas this spring.

The hike itself wasn’t terribly long as the wind was biting and the trails were somewhat sloshy—it was just a quick, relaxing ramble! Look how little Zoe and Grayson were just a few years ago when we dropped by one April afternoon!

Other Tandy Hills posts are here.

Wildlife at South Llano River State Park | Wildlife Wednesday


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American Snout, Libytheana carinenta

We were packing up the car to leave the state park when I noticed a butterfly landing on my backpack sitting on the picnic table. It was the first day of sunshine after a couple of cloudier days and surprisingly the butterflies were out. Not many, but just enough to make me happy! I had already taken the two butterfly photos you’ll see below before I saw this one and as I went closer to inspect the butterfly, before getting my camera to take a photo, I saw the odd, pointed snout and realized it was an American snout! I’d read about these butterflies but had never seen one—or at least never known that I’d seen one. I’d read about their mass abundance after rainy periods in the Hill Country but just never thought I’d come across one.

Oddly enough, you know how you see/hear something and then it’s everywhere? About a month after this I walked out on our porch one morning to leave for work and noticed a butterfly sitting on the house. We have moths there all the time so I stopped to check it out. It was a snout! I took a crappy phone photo of it but I was pretty excited to know we had a sighting at the house!

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Large Orange Sulphur, Phoebis agarithe

This beauty was the first entry for Kimble County on iNaturalist for this species. I’m sure it has been seen before but considering that county is rather rural, I’m not surprised no one else has noted it.

Sleepy Orange Butterfly
Sleepy Orange, Abaeis nicippe

Another sweet sulphur flitting around the campsite. It’s nice to actually get to see the difference between the sulphurs and oranges when they sit still. They are always on the fly and I have a hard time distinguishing them otherwise.

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Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Aphelocoma woodhouseii

The bird photos were taken at three of the wildlife blinds at the state park which have plexiglass between observers and the wildlife. Needless to say it was hard sometimes to get a clear photo with the plexiglass between us and some photos are blurrier than I’d like.

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Field Sparrow, Spizella pusilla

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Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis

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Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria

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White-throated Sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis

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Black-throated Sparrow, Amphispiza bilineata

I’m not a birder but I think I could slowly learn to be at least more well-rounded in birds, particularly the little brown jobbers. It was fun trying to learn and identify the different sparrows we saw.

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White-winged Dove, Zenaida asiatica

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Black-crested Titmouse, Baeolophus atricristatus

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata

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Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

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unknown snake

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Probably an Eastern cottontail

Other wildlife worth noting are the coyotes we heard at night, yipping in the distance. And the Rio Grande turkeys that live along the floodplain at the state park. We got to see some of them in a field one evening but otherwise the entire area adjacent to the river was off limits to everyone. Typically there’s a time frame in the middle of the day that you are allowed to hike in the area but due to the massive flood (damage of which I’ll show in another post) that happened in the fall, the whole area is closed for a while to let the turkeys recover and rebuild their roosts. It was a nasty flood, y’all. I was surprised to see some of the damage that was seemingly far from the river.

Fort Worth Stock Show with the Family


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Every since Forest was born my parents have been wanting to take Forest to the Fort Worth Stock Show as they had done in years previous with my niece and nephew. Timing wise it had never really worked out. This year was different as Chris’ mom and step-dad were having a celebration for their 20th wedding anniversary which necessitated a trip up there. Forest would be having his first sleepover with his cousins since the party was adult only, so on Saturday we spent the day over in Fort Worth going to the Stock Show!

It’s been years since I’ve been to Will Rogers Coliseum where the Stock Show is held but I have memories of going to the Stock Show but also other events including a Boy Scout event in which my brother and I went round and round the booths to get homemade donuts that some scout group was making, going to some Golden Gloves boxing matches with my dad (no, I don’t like boxing but my dad had tickets and I was a kid, so naturally I had to go! I mean, I had fun spending time with my dad and getting concession food but not really into boxing!), and seeing the Fort Worth Stock Show Art Show. I took art from 6th grade through 12th grade and while I never had a piece in the art show I did have friends who did submit–they were really into western art!

For the Stock Show we made our way around the exhibits and I think Forest enjoyed seeing all of the animals. I really loved all of the rabbits, particularly the giant rabbits! A lot of kids were raising those for exhibit and selling and they tried to make their case by assuring us they could be litter trained, and I can’t say I wasn’t enticed! They looked so adorable!

After lunch we popped down into the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History which was rebuilt around 10 years ago. Because it was part of the area of the Stock Show you could get in with your ticket instead of purchasing another entrance. I remember going with Zoe when she was maybe 3 or so but hadn’t been back since. My parents had been telling me they were disappointed in the changes to the museum versus what it used to be—there used to be many more exhibits and now it seems to be mostly hands-on science learning, which is nice and all, but not really a museum, IMO. There’s another floor with the Cattle Raisers Museum and I’m sure it is interesting but we didn’t get to go up there. I just remember there being much more of a diverse focus on science and history in the old building than what is now there.

Overall it was a great time with the family and Forest, Zoe, and Grayson had fun spending time together!

Life Lately | February 2019


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Forest in a hunting blind at South Llano River State Park

Thinking:
While we were camping last weekend we had to take a road back to make it a loop to the car from the trail we were on. About 10′ off the trail into the vegetation was a large empty chip bag. I deviated off the road for a moment to pick up the back to LNT the thing and as I was stepping off the trail Forest says “Are we going bushwhacking?” Chris and I chuckled because it was so funny and he used it in the right context! I was going off the road but not with the intent to bushwhack back to the parking lot so I explained I was picking up the trash. I did think that we were about due for another bushwhacking adventure, though!

Gardening:
It looks like winter is having its last stand this weekend and early next week, with temperatures predicted to dip into the low to mid 30s. I was hoping to get the tomatoes planted in the ground this weekend but looks like that will be delayed until late next week. I know that Chris was looking forward to not shuffling all of the tropical plants back indoors again but that’s not going to happen. I too will move a few plants, definitely the tomatoes and peppers.

The edible garden is on the precipice of change. Several cool season crops are bolting and I’m hoping that others will hold off for another 6-8 weeks, particularly the collard greens! I’ll be sad when salad season goes away.

A few weekends ago we picked up a lot of plants at a couple of different nurseries and we’ve been working on getting the flower garden into shape. I need to start going through and picking the elm, pine, and Virginia creeper seedlings that are coming up everywhere before they turn into small saplings and vines. I’m going to be interested to see how a lot of the native seeds I sowed (and some of the non-native ornamentals) do this year.

Loving:
+MyFitnessPal
+Girl Scout Cookies (yes, this is ironically following MFP!)
+My only surviving phalenopsis orchid at work is putting out flower spikes!
+Looking for pots of native plants that I can see can be easily divided when I’m at a nursery. I’m all about looking for the pot with the most plants or ability to be divided—more plants for the $$! Yesterday I separated out 10-12 Brazos penstemon seedlings that otherwise looked like a large single plant. Nope, a bunch of different plants. I think that was a $2.99 4″ pot at The Natural Gardener in Austin (stopped by there on our way home last weekend), so that’s a lot of plants for not much! Now, if I can keep the deer off of them.
+My Desk Cycle Ellipse. Can’t remember if I wrote about it here yet but I won it on a blog contest and I LOVE it! I use it a couple of times a day in chunks and love being able to move while still getting work done. One of the downsides to my job is how sedentary it is.

Reading:
This month I read Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home by Heather Anderson, which I loved! It’s about Heather’s PCT FKT hike in 2013. More recently I finished The Pursuit of Endurance by Jennifer Pharr Davis which chronicles the back stories and side stories of FKT holders on the AT and PCT. I enjoyed reading the book but thought that the title was a bit misleading for someone who might pick it up thinking it was about endurance athletes across different sports. I also finished a fiction book this month and will talk about it when I do a book report next month.

I’m starting Natural Companions by Ken Druse on my Kindle. It’s a beautiful book of scanned floral plantings with descriptions of the plants and gardening advice. I’m a fan of Ken Druse so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it! I’ve got a few other books I’m in the middle of as well.

Making:
Photos, writing, podcasting. Not much time for anything else.

Watching & Listening:
Grace and Frankie: I binged this over the end of January and early February. Found it hilarious and enjoyed it!

Russian Doll: Natasha Lyonne is one of those character actresses who you can easily enjoy whatever piece of work she’s doing. This is a bit of a re-mix of Groundhog Day with some darker subject matter.

I’ve been catching some Downtown Abbey recordings that are randomly recording on DVR. It is making me miss that show a lot!
Still watching Grey’s Anatomy, Victoria, This is Us, and Big Bang Theory.

I’m actually looking forward to summer when there’s less to be watching!

Loved this 15 minute documentary of YouTube of Stringbean’s FKT on the AT:

And really enjoyed this 20 minute slightly tongue-in-cheek early 80s AT Gear Review on YouTube–h/t to Mags:

On the podcast front:
Sworn Statement Podcast put out by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. The first three episodes are about a hiker named Mostly Harmless who was found deceased in his tent last summer on the Florida Trail in Big Cypress National Preserve. The hiking community was able to immediately pinpoint who he was as a trailname after he was found but there has been no other identification information on his real name or family. I talked with the podcast host for about 20 minutes mostly giving some background information on the hiker community and have a small snippet included in the first episode, but a hiker and trail angel named Kelly Fairbanks from Crestview has more interaction in the episode as she met him and had photos of him and was the person to identify him once the drawing and description was set out into the hiker community. It appears that he may be linked to New York State. He was also on the AT in 2017.

Episode 64: 2% For Conservation With Jared Frasier of the By Land podcast. A long interview but some interesting outtakes include having hikers and other public land users add into the fees that hunters and anglers have when purchasing equipment and licenses. One of those fees talked about is a ‘backpack tax’—Googling gets you lots of links for more reading, which I need to do because I found the topic interesting. Of course there are differing opinions about the subject.

Leave No Stone via the Outside/In radio show/podcast about the trend of writing and painting on rocks and subsequently leaving them in outdoor spaces. A very interesting episode!

What’s up with you? If you haven’t commented in a while, say hello! I go through my older posts from time to time and wow, it is a big difference in comment interaction 6-7 years ago versus now! I know people read, I can tell by analytics (not who, mind you, just #s) so I know you are out there! I know I’m not the only one with this problem, many bloggers are lamenting this. Say hi!

Birds & Mule Deer at Davis Mountains State Park | Wildlife Wednesday


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We encountered this group of mule deer on our way up Skyline Drive one evening. Luckily we were going slow enough that I had Chris stop so I could get a photo with the moon as the backdrop. Thankfully this deer posted perfectly for me!

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And then there was this set of characters at one of the wildlife viewing areas that Chris and Forest saw (I was back at camp–I needed some quiet time!).

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Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata

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Townsend’s Solitaire, Myadestes townsendi–Thanks Eliana for the ID!

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House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus

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Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus

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Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis

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Pyrrhuloxia, Cardinalis sinuatus

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Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Dryobates scalaris

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White-winged Dove, Zenaida asiatica

All of the bird photos except the zoomed out acorn woodpecker photos were taken by Chris with our point and shoot. He was very excited about the pyrrhuloxia after another birder identified it! I didn’t get to see it but from the photos online it appears to be a really interesting bird!

I did start taking more bird photos at the bird blind at South Llano River so maybe I will start learning birds a bit more.

A Taste of Spring


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Phlox drummondii

Over the weekend we went to the Hill Country to camp at Inks Lake State Park, and we were in for a treat. The Lady Bird Wildflower Center has been sharing their wildflower reports on social media, basically reposting what people are sharing that they’ve seen, and I’ve seen bluebonnets from Big Bend to the Hill Country posted. Sure enough, as we headed into the Hill Country we found wildflowers galore, including plenty of early bluebonnets. Closer to Houston there are some paintbrushes beginning to bloom but the big awakening is yet to happen.

As we traipsed along the Gneiss rock formations in the state park, I think we were all enamored with the amount of wildflowers already out. At least, I know I was!

I’m still working on wrapping up our Thanksgiving camping trip posts and tomorrow there will be a final post from the Davis Mountains and then I’ll launch into South Llano River State Park, which was our stopover on the way home. We went camping at Stephen F. Austin State Park just west of Houston/Katy a couple of weekends ago and I have those photos and hike reports to share. In addition, we were in DFW earlier in February and attended the Fort Worth Stockshow and I have some photos from there that I need to share at some point.

It looks like next week we may drip close to freezing and I hope that’s the last of those chances and then I know it will be full-on gardening and outside mode….if we can just have a bit less rain and some more warmth!

Around Camp | Davis Mountains State Park


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Our campsite, 41, was not wide but it was spaced so that there was quite a bit of room on either side of us that we weren’t abutting the next campsites. I think the downside to this space was there was really only one spot for the tent which did happen to be closer to one of the campsites. That got frustrating one evening when we were in bed early (because dark and cold!) and the RV next to us decided to bring out a projector screen and watch a movie outside. Ooh boy. Some day I’m going to have a ranty post about campground quiet hours and how I think they should be earlier than they usually are (10pm for Texas State Parks) or at least with seasonal variations on the time.

Another good thing about this site is that we were on the tail-end of a dead end road so Forest could play a bit more in the road with his trike or his toys than we’d normally allow. And the closeness of the dry bed of Keesey Creek made a natural area for Forest to play. It was easy for us to sit at the picnic table and chill out and Forest could play in the creek. We’d call out for him to check in on occasion but he had a little bit of freedom to do that fun exploration kids do while camping. He’s still a few years away from more of that but it was pleasant to be able to allow him to have a taste of that within the confines of us being able to keep close tabs on him.

I’d probably chose this site again if we had the chance. It wasn’t a far walk from the bathroom, just down the creek and up a trail. Of course we didn’t really scout out any of the other campsites either and now that TPWD had finally upgraded its reservation system (with growing pains of course!) to allow for exact site reservations at the time of booking your stay, it would be helpful in the future to make note of campsites we (you) liked for future reference!

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